The huge task of implementing a coordinated access system in Nanaimo is being undertaken by the Nanaimo Homeless Coalition and United Way Central Northern Vancouver Island, in partnership with the City of Nanaimo’s Health and Housing Task Force. Through Reaching Home funding from the Government of Canada, coordinated access will provide vulnerable residents with a centralize place to seek help.
What is coordinated access?
The support and resources available for vulnerable residents in Nanaimo are not currently centralized, so when someone needs help, it’s not always clear where they should go, what help is needed or what resources are available to them. A coordinated access system essentially allows someone who experiencing homelessness to find the help they need and to be placed into housing in more streamlined way.
Coordinated access systems make the most of existing resources and also help organizations get better information about their clients. Each person seeking support is assessed and their information is kept in a centralized database which allows them to be connected with available housing and supports in a more efficient way.
Why is it important?
According to the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, a coordinated access system is essential,not just for ending homelessness, but also preventing it:
“By standardizing the intake and assessment process, sharing information in real-time within a community, adopting uniform prioritization policies and coordinating referral processes, coordinated access systems connect people to the right housing and supports, as efficiently as possible, based on their preferences and level of need.
This ensures communities get the most out of limited resources and we can more rapidly and effectively prevent and end homelessness for those in greatest need.”
What are the benefits?
Although coordinated access systems are fairly new in Canada, they have been in place in Alberta for over ten years. Let’s look at Calgary as an example.
When the Calgary Homeless Foundation implemented their system, they found that many clients would apply for multiple programs at the same time to increase their likelihood of acceptance. This resulted in increased waitlists and no way to know if the same client was on multiple lists. The coordinated access system helped eliminate this issue.
They also found that a coordinated access system allows all agencies and organizations to work together with a common language, process and policy. This results in a higher quality service for clients and a more consistent process across the board, regardless of where or how someone experiencing homelessness seeks support.
Because of the many benfits of a coordinated access system, the Government of Canada has made it a priority through Reaching Home: Canada’s Strategy to End Homelessness. With Reaching Home funding, many communities facing a homelessness crisis, including Nanaimo, are now implementing coordinated access systems to streamline access to housing and services.